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Remembering John Altobelli

John Altobelli, former assistant baseball coach at UCI, passed away on Jan. 26 at age 56 in Calabasas. Altobelli was one of the nine victims killed in the helicopter crash that also took the lives of his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, along with Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, and four other people — Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. 

Altobelli is survived by his two other children, J.J. and Alexis. As a coach for the Orange Coast College Baseball Program, he connected with the hearts of his players. 

Born on May 8, 1963, Altobelli had a strong passion for baseball. He was an outfielder for Newport Harbor and Golden West College. In 1983, he was named “Rustler of the Year.” He transferred to the University of Houston where he took on the role of team captain and became a starter in the outfield. During his time in Houston, he was able to lead the team to the NCAA Regional Finals. 

Altobelli graduated from the University of Houston in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He then obtained a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific University in 1988.

He became an assistant coach for the UCI baseball team in the 1980s. He worked alongside head coach Mike Gerakos for five years. During his time at UCI, Altobelli nurtured and mentored his players in both the game of baseball and in life. He left UCI in 1992 to become the head coach for the Orange Coast Pirates.

John Altobelli, head coach of the Orange Coast College Pirates (Photo by Orange Coast College)

“He helped me when I was starting out. I mean, he’s really the one that connected with the players. He fit right in, he was a great communicator, he cared for the kids and was knowledgeable about the game. All of the things that made him a legend at Orange Coast College is what made him a great assistant at UCI,” said Gerakos.

Altobelli was revered as a coach during his time at Orange Coast College and loved by the college community. He fundraised upgrades to the Pirates’ home park, Wendell Pickens Field, giving it a full scoreboard, improved batting cages and new sound systems.

During his time with the Orange Coast Pirates, Altobelli achieved over 700 victories, four state titles and became the longest-tenured baseball coach in the school’s history with 27 seasons. 

“I couldn’t have been more proud of him. John would say that he had great assistant coaches and the players understood what they were trying to accomplish. It’s the players and assistant coaches that help you the most,” Gerakos said. 

The public was invited to attend a memorial service for John, Keri and Alyssa on Yesterday, Feb. 10th, at 4 p.m. at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

Aviraj Gokool is a Sports Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. He can be reached at .